Guide Offers Tips on Helping America's Heroes Return to the Workplace

March 3, 2008 ( - As a growing number of America's fighting men and women return to the workplace from the battlefield, a coalition has published a free guide to help employers respond to the challenge.

One in four U.S. service members in Iraq and Afghanistan are National Guard members and Reservists, the largest deployment of civilian soldiers since World War II.   While federal law requires that there is a job waiting when they return to U.S. soil, veterans have found the shift from battlefield to the business world can be traumatic and challenging.

Employers can help America’s heroes succeed in the workplace by offering employee assistance and mentoring programs, advised the Workplace Warrior Think Tank – a group launched by the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC), a developer of employee health and productivity strategies, and three of the nation’s disability insurers – The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., MetLife, and Unum.  

The group’s recommendations are included in a free guide, ” Workplace Warrior: The Corporate Response to Deployment and Reintegration .”   The guide is available  HERE .

“The U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has created long-term medical and disability issues for returning veterans. To retain these valuable employees and benefit from their knowledge, abilities and experience, a comprehensive response is needed by employers,” said Marcia Carruthers, chief executive officer of DMEC and think tank co-chair, in a press release.

“One effective way that employers can assist veterans is employing an Employee Assistance Program to tackle the major health, work and family challenges resulting from a lengthy overseas assignment in a combat zone,” said Carol Harnett, vice president and national disability and life practice leader for The Hartford and co-chair of the Workplace Warrior Think Tank.

Another effective tool to support the successful reintegration of civilian soldiers is a mentoring program that links them with veterans within the workforce, according to the firms.   The commonality of military experience may forge bonds among colleagues. "Virtually any employer can provide mentoring by other veterans - at any level and for very little cost," said think tank participant Andrew R. Gilbert, a military veteran who founded a forum at his employer Booz Allen Hamilton.

In addition, the Workplace Warrior Think Tank recommends employers celebrate employees' return to the workplace, recap changes that occurred while they were gone, and educate supervisors about these "red flags" of potential problems:

  • Arriving at work later than normal or leaving early on a regular basis
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding co-workers
  • Exhibiting outbursts of anger or increased irritability with colleagues
  • Startling easily or seeming anxious
  • Reporting sleeping difficulties or appearing to be tired
  • Experiencing difficulty in performing duties.

The Workplace Warrior Think Tank, which convened in November 2007, brought together experts in disability management, human resources and benefit plan design, as well as military veterans who are now corporate leaders.  The Disability Management Employer Coalition, Inc. (DMEC) is a nonprofit, employer-focused professional association founded in 1992 to advance the development of integrated absence and disability management. Its mission is to provide educational resources for members in the areas of disability, absence, health, and productivity through international, regional, and state chapters; annual conferences; publications; training programs and practical tools.